Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Beauharnois—Salaberry (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2004, with 35% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 25th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 27 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

International Women's Week March 11th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, speaking to the theme of International Women's Week, “She's on a Role”, I would like to pay tribute to women.

Women are present in their family, social and economic environments, and are the pioneers behind great social changes. While many receive the honour they deserve, many others work in the background of their communities.

Women participate fully in all social movements. They inspire those around them with their courage, their determination and their sense of duty.

Every day, they add a fresh breath of optimism to everything. They are examples and trailblazers for future generations.

I wish to thank all women for their devotion.

Pierre Falardeau March 9th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I rise to denounce Pierre Falardeau's remarks published in a Quebec newspaper funded by the Bloc Quebecois. These remarks insulted the memory of a great Quebecker, Claude Ryan.

Pierre Falardeau's remarks not only insulted a man and his family, a man who devoted his life to public service, but also all of Quebec's society, which has given a well-deserved tribute to Mr. Ryan.

Even more surprising is the support Pierre Falardeau received from the member for Trois-Rivières. Once again, we see that, for separatist Bloc members, there are two kinds of Quebeckers: the good ones who think like them, and the bad ones who dare to think otherwise.

I had the privilege to sit with Claude Ryan and I can assure the hon. members that he was a great Quebecker whose open-mindedness and tolerance should serve as an example here in this House.

I would hope that the leader of the Bloc Quebecois will ask his member to withdraw his remarks.

The Environment February 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. Naturally, when we speak of marine areas, marine parks, protected areas, wildlife preserves and the like, these are all very sensitive issues of which the minister is keenly aware. Our objective is to protect these areas and to allow the public to make use of them as well, while respecting the marine environment.

Canadian Film Industry February 27th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I encourage my colleagues in the House and the public to congratulate those Canadians nominated this year for an Oscar.

We are extremely proud of our distinguished Canadians who have been nominated for six Oscars. Denys Arcand is up for best screenplay and best foreign language film for The Barbarian Invasions . Chris Hinton has been nominated for best animated short for Nibbles . Composer Howard Shore has been nominated for two Academy awards for The Lord of the Rings : best musical score and best song. Benoit Charest is also up for best song for The Triplets of Belleville .

As these prestigious nominations demonstrate, last year was a great year for the Canadian film industry. Canada is full of world-class artists. We wish them every success on Oscar night.

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, obviously, it depends on what side of the House one is on. On this side, I can say that the government has treated all agricultural producers fairly.

Every time a crisis or a major problem occurs, whether because of a drought, a virus or floods, the government always intervenes to support the victims.

In agriculture, the government has intervened by setting up pretty substantial programs to help all beef and dairy producers with respect to cull cows, a problem that is not unique to Quebec but which also affects Ontario and western Canada to a large extent.

On the other side of the House, they are going to say that we never do enough. Listen, that is your opinion. However, what the Liberal Party of Canada is doing in the field of agriculture is far superior to what you, the Conservatives, are proposing in your platform. You are talking about providing $1 billion, while the Canadian government is putting in five times that.

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if my colleague from Champlain used the word minimal instead of measly, because measly implies worthless, while minimal means not very much. I am sure that is what he meant to say.

He is totally right, in the sense that government assistance will not resolve the problem. If I look strictly at Quebec, it is currently impossible for government assistance to resolve the cull problem. It is only a small part of the solution. Mr. Speaker, this affects your riding, which is just across from mine, on the other side of the river, where you have dairy farmers.

Two things could be done in the short term. First, for Canada, the border could be opened to allow us to move our goods. That would resolve the problem. Since we have no control over that, something else could be done. For Quebec, and the dairy farmers in my region in particular, the problem is that, even with government assistance, the price at the meat packing plant is so low that the farmer cannot survive financially. That is the problem in Quebec right now. The price at the meat packing plants is almost half what it was before the crisis.

Had the price remained the same, with the current government assistance, our producers could have managed until the borders reopened. That is the problem right now.

There is only one meat packing plant in Quebec, therefore it has a monopoly. Investigations into the price of beef to the consumer have revealed that our producers are receiving less than half of what they used, while the price of beef at the grocery store, at Métro, Loblaws or wherever, has not gone down. This is a major problem.

These are two of the factors. I know that, even in my region, in the riding of Vaudreuil—Soulanges, they are trying to reopen a meat plan, which had already been closed, in order to create some competition. This is a major problem for our producers right now.

In terms of all the cattle producers, we could perhaps agree that $520 million is not very much. It is true that farmers are not responsible for this crisis. It is not their fault, but the Canadian government is not to blame either. It is a problem in negotiating with a major partner, a major market for our producers. What can we expect when 80% of our export goes to the U.S.? That is where our market is.

We are finding the same problem in market gardening. Les Jardins de Napierville, one of the largest vegetable producers in Quebec, is located in my riding. The problem is that, every time shipments cross the border into the United States, they have a thousand and one conditions imposed, and trucks full of perishables are kept in storage.

One starts wondering what is happening. Of course, we must lobby strongly with the United States; it is always up to us to negotiate with the Americans.

We are in agreement on that. Mr. Speaker, you also represent a very agricultural riding; farmers need our help. We have made an enormous effort. I know that negotiations are underway about the possibility of providing more money. Still, the solution is to open the borders.

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate the Conservative member's question.

What must clearly be understood regarding agriculture is that, when we talk about an investment of over $5 billion, that figure includes all the investments made by the provincial and federal governments through numerous programs.

Today, we are dealing with an issue that specifically affects our cattle ranchers. When I said that the Canadian government is investing in excess of $500 million, this is in addition to programs already in place to help beef producers. Our government is also spending over $200 million to help cull cow producers. So, we are talking about a total amount of more than $700 million. This does not include the contributions made by provincial governments.

In terms of the breakdown of all the investments made by governments, I can say that, in the case of Quebec, a very large part of the programs are under the responsibility of the Quebec government and the agreements are signed with the Government of Canada. Money is transferred through the farm credit corporation, with which farmers can negotiate and so on.

If the hon. member wants more specifics, I will take note of her question and I will get back to her later on, with a more detailed reply.

Supply February 26th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on a topic that is highly important to our entire agricultural industry, our farmers, cattle farmers, and, especially in Quebec, all the dairy farmers who are suffering tremendous losses with respect to cull.

First I would like to say that I am in daily contact with the farmers in my region because our farmers are very worried about their future if our American friends insist on keeping the border closed. The Government of Canada has taken the bull by the horns, as we say, and gone to great lengths to support cattle farmers and the dairy farmers in Quebec who are having problems getting their cull slaughtered.

The most recent statistics show that 2003 was catastrophic in terms of farm income, especially in Quebec, but also across the country. These statistics on the past year paint a very sad picture. The net income for the entire industry is at an all time low. Not only is this income extremely low, but it has fallen as low as negative $13.4 million. New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta are the hardest hit provinces in terms of cattle farmers. Quebec is also quite affected in terms of cattle farmers, but also with respect to cull.

The worst thing is that most farmers had started out well in 2003, in a generally stable financial situation with a reasonable amount of debt. It was the combination of a number of factors that turned things around the way they did. The sudden and unforeseen growth in our dollar compared to the U.S. dollar is a major factor because it affects not just one, but all sectors industry wide.

Another important element to mention is the great drought that has struck the western provinces. It started in 2002, but continued last year, especially in Saskatchewan. In addition to all that, there is the painful problem of mad cow disease, that is, bovine spongiform encephalopathy. That really was the final blow, even more so because it is not limited to cattle, but is also found in cervids, for which there is a growing demand.

I will not go on at length about the many investigations, inquiries and research projects going on designed not to identify guilty parties, but rather to find the origin of the disease and the means to wipe it out. In fact, we must admit that, in our era of globalization and free-trade agreements, as we open our borders to trade, we also open them to everything that comes with it. Therefore, it is in our collective interest that all of us, all the partners in free trade, unite our efforts in this common cause, in order to maximize the safety of our products.

For the time being, hard reality is setting in. The statistics show this reality, but they do not show the painful consequences suffered by farmers, their families and the rural communities whose economic life is largely dependent on agricultural activity.

The situation is somewhat different in Quebec. A large part of its production is in the dairy sector, where earnings increased by 11% last year. In comparison with the western provinces, beef cattle raising is less significant.

Moreover, producers in Quebec benefit from the provincial agricultural income stabilization program, whose payments increased by 79% last year. Overall, though, the situation is not desperate, far from it, because very early on—based, of course, on foreseeable elements—the government quickly became aware of the situation and, with the cooperation of the provinces, increased the number of assistance programs.

Additionally, the recovery program, specifically for the mad cow crisis, added $520 million in direct assistance. This does not include another $200 million under the cull cattle program. In total, payments to producers under various federal programs increased by 44% last year.

If we add to this the various provincial measures, Canadian producers will have received, overall, a record total of nearly $5 billion in 2003.

That is not all. The famous reserve fund is about to mature. Since producers have accumulated over $4 billion in the fund, they will soon be able to access their money.

Furthermore, there are additional federal measures for 2003. However, given that the payments will only be made this year, they have not yet been included in the official figures. This is true, in particular, for future payments under the new agricultural income stabilization program.

This program ensures both income stabilization and protection in the event of a disaster. Its specific purpose is to protect producers against market fluctuations. We already anticipate that, starting this year, producers will withdraw significant funds.

Unlike other sectors of the economy, the agricultural industry is vulnerable in two ways. Indeed, in addition to having to face, like other industries, increasingly stronger competition, it must also cope with nature, over which we have little, if any control. This is why agriculture needs particular attention, through sound, positive, comprehensive and sustained initiatives.

This is what the Canadian government is doing in various ways, but primarily through its numerous aid packages.

If we look at the situation—and I heard it today in the comments made by parliamentarians in this House—one of the problems with selling our beef products is that hardly any processing is done here, including in Quebec.

For example, in the case of cull cows, there is only one slaughterhouse in Quebec that manages to set its prices. These prices are much lower than those that cull cow producers were getting in the past. So, we have to find a solution to this situation.

While huge investments have been made, they remain insufficient of course, because a government cannot provide 100% support to an industry, particularly agriculture. Despite the huge investments made to support our farmers, cattle ranchers, cull cow producers and dairy producers, there is a critical issue on which we must continue to work on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, namely the reopening of the American border to our beef producers.

Considering that the United States is an important market for Canada, as a major economic partner of ours—with almost 80% of our exports going to the U.S. market—the American government must absolutely reopen its border as quickly as possible, so that our producers can have free access to this market.

Criminal Code February 18th, 2004

Mr. Speaker, obviously, we must respect equally the jurisdictions of each country. However, since we share the same continent, North America, there is a tripartite association where we can discuss such standards.

But it is impossible for me to be able to tell my colleague today when the Americans or the Mexicans will apply these standards.

All I can say is that there is intense collaboration among these countries to reach agreement on, at the very least, similar standards for North America.